Life of St. Catherine of Siena, Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

Of Catharine’s Parents and their worldly condition.

There lived in the city of Sienna, in Tuscany, a man named Jacomo, who was descended from the family of the Benencasa, a man simple, loyal, fearing God, and separated from every vice. After losing his parents he married a countrywoman called Lapa. This woman had none of the defects so common at the present day; she was industrious, prudent, well-versed in domestic affairs, and as she still lives, those who are acquainted with her may still render her this precious testimony. The good couple dwelt peaceably together, and although of the humbler class, they possessed a certain position among their fellowcitizens, and besides enjoyed a considerable fortune for their rank. God blessed them with a numerous offspring, which they reared in the ways of eminent virtue.

As Jacomo has, as we have every reason to believe, gone to the abodes of the blest, I can with propriety make his eulogium here. Lapa has assured me that he was so mild and moderate in his words that he never gave way to anger, notwithstanding the numerous occasions which might have led him to do so; and when ever he saw any member of his household becoming vexed and speaking with violence, he would try to calm the person, saying cheerfully, “Now, now, do not say anything wrong, so that God may grant you his blessing.” On one occasion a fellow-citizen had injured him very considerably, by claiming a sum of money from him unjustly, and employing the influence of his friends, and falsehood also to bring about the ruin of poor Jacomo. Still he would not hear his enemy spoken of in any way that could detract from him, and as Lapa thought it no fault he gently reproved her, saying: “Let him alone, dear, let him alone, and God will bless you; he will show him his error, and will become our defence.” This soon took place; the truth was discovered almost miraculously; the guilty man was condemned, and acknowledged the injustice of his persecutions.

The testimony of Lapa is above suspicion; all who are acquainted with her will easily credit her : she is an octogenarian, and is so simple that even would she, she could not invent anything false. The friends of Jacomo can also testify to his simplicity, uprightness, and virtue; he was so reserved in his speech that his family, especially the female portion of it, could not support the least irregularity in conversation. One of his daughters, named Bonaventura, had married a young man of Sienna, named Nicholas. This young man received at his house friends of his own age, and their conversation sometimes savoured of levity. Bonaventura became so depressed in spirits on this account, that she fell into a languishing state of health, and sensibly wasted away. Her husband inquired the cause of her illness; she replied,” I have never been accustomed to hearing in the house of my father, language such as I hear in yours; my education has been widely different, and I assure you that if these unbecoming discourses continue, my life must soon terminate.”

This reply inspired the husband with a great respect for her and her family. He forbade his guests to pronounce in the presence of Bonaventura any words that could possibly displease her; they obeyed, and thut} the correct government in the household of Jacomo, corrected the licence of the house of Nicholas, his son-in-law.

Jacomo’s occupation was the preparation of colours employed in dying wool; hence his surname of the dyer. The daughter of this virtuous artisan was destined to become the spouse of the King of Heaven.

The above account I have obtained either from Catharine herself, from her mother, or ftom some religious and seculars who were neighbours, friends, or relatives of Jacomo.

Source: The LIfe of St. Catherine of Sienna, by her Confessor, Bl. Raymond of Capua

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